The First Quicksilver Story

Quicksilver was one of the many second banana super heroes who profligated throughout the Golden Age of Comics, filling up the back pages of assorted anthology titles and providing thrills but not being so memorable or distinct that they ever became stars themselves. Occasionally, one of these back-page crime-busters would break out and become a bona fide hit (as Plastic Man did in POLICE COMICS.) But typically, these features debuted with some small degree of fanfare, ran their race, and then disappeared never to be seen or thought of again.

Such seemed to be the case with Quicksilver, a Quality Comics player often referred to as the “Laughing Robin Hood.” Despite his name, Quicksilver wasn’t really a straight up speedster along the lines of Johnny Quick or the Flash. He was fast, sure, but more acrobatic and elusive, hence his name. He was the creation of Jack Cole and Chuck Mazoujian in the pages of NATIONAL COMICS, where his back-up series would run for several years.

If anything, Quicksilver owes a debt to Cole’s earlier swift hero Silver Streak (from the pages of SILVER STREAK COMICS). But there really wasn’t all that much to him. And he’d no doubt wallow in obscurity today like most of the rest of his Quality Comics back-page brethren if not for a fortuitous happenstance.

You see, in the late 1950s as the comic book business went through some hard times following the Senate hearings and the implementation of the Comics Code, Quality decided to go out of business–and they sold all of their assets to competitor National Comics–whom today we know as DC.

DC bought the Quality back catalogue largely to take over publication of the few still-successful titles Quality was still putting out, mainly G.I. COMBAT and BLACKHAWK. But they wound up with everything, including several pieces of I.P. that would prove extremely valuable in the decades ahead. Heck, Plastic Man was worth that sale price all by himself and then some.

Anyway, by the 1970s, DC began reprinting some of the Quality stories that they owned the rights to in their 100-Page Super-Spectacular-sized comic books. Largely this was the work of editor E. Nelson Bridwell, who had been a fan of the Quality line as a reader and wanted to get some of this material back into print. So in a FLASH 100-Pager at one point, Bridwell included a short Quicksilver story along with the other reprints. And this story was read by a young Mark Waid.

Years after that, looking for other speedsters to use in his “Return of Barry Allen” storyline, Waid, then the writer of FLASH, brought back Quicksilver as a contemporary of Jay Garrick, the 1940s Flash. But because of the Marvel hero of the same name, Waid changed the character’s alias to Max Mercury. (I’m told that Quicksilver did go by Max Mercury in one old Quality story, but I’ve never run it down.) Building off of what little was there, Waid went on to use Max Mercury as a recurring figure, the “zen master of speed” who educated Wally West in the true source and scope of his abilities. And he’s now a figure well known to modern audiences again.

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